Kayne Henry closing college career in loud fashion - Hoopsfix.com

Kayne Henry closing college career in loud fashion

Kayne Henry Jacksonville State

The mission was simple for Kayne Henry: the Jacksonville State senior wanted his team to make noise in their new home.

“We’ve had talks from the moment I first got here,” Henry said. “We’ve always had eyes on being a top contender and that was our plan this year as well. Just come into the ASUN and make ourselves be heard.”

It’s officially mission accomplished. Henry and the Gamecocks (21-9, 13-3) locked up the ASUN Conference regular season championship in their first year in the league, and then were awarded the league’s bid to the NCAA Tournament in unprecedented circumstances.

Though the Gamecocks lost to Jacksonville in the ASUN semifinals, they will still go dancing by virtue of being the regular season champion, since an ineligible team — Bellarmine — won the tournament.

The London native has been a vital part of that title-winning formula, starting every game and averaging 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest as he puts the final touches on his collegiate career. And it’s a career that began with his own noisy entrance onto the scene.

Henry’s said his relationship with basketball started when he was seven or eight years old as he began playing the sport during after school activities.

He quickly told his mom the game was something he wanted to pursue and it spread from there, despite never having watched basketball growing up. Henry has credited James Markham and Patrick Avorkliyah as coaches that had a big impact on him during those formative hooping years.

Henry then prominently planted his name within British basketball during the 2017 FIBA U18 Division B European Championships in Estonia.

“Honestly, I think that’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Henry said of his national team experience.

“That’s really what put me on the radar for coaches in America. I had a little outburst and played well and that just really gave me exposure from there.”

A little outburst is understating how well he did during that Baltic trip. Henry averaged over 14 points per game and made the all-tournament team, helping Great Britain grab silver and promotion.

He scored 35 points against Luxembourg during that star-studded tournament run that set him on a path toward to the United States, which Henry said had always been his dream.

He set out for San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas in 2017 after graduating from St. Charles Catholic Sixth Form College, putting him at a junior college just outside of Houston. Knowing nobody in the U.S., Henry said it was a big jump both on and off the court.

“It was a big transition, the game was a lot faster, aggressive and physical. It took me time to get used to, but eventually I adapted and it ended up being second nature,” he said.

Henry also had to deal with a unique situation at San Jacinto. The college had voted to eliminate its basketball program after 57 years at the end of the 2017-18 season, guaranteeing that Henry’s debut season would be his only one at San Jacinto. He said he had built enough of a connection with the coaching staff that he felt it was still the right fit for him, even if it would only be a one-year stop.

He would move on to Northwest Florida State College for his sophomore year, playing on a loaded 2018-19 team that included future Pac-12 Player of the Year — and current Indiana Pacer — Chris Duarte, as well as future Conference USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet.

His next stop, however, would be where he’d make his boldest mark in American college basketball.

Henry said he signed with the Gamecocks because of the belief head coach Ray Harper and his staff showed in him.

“They said they saw a lot of potential in me, and saw big things for the team,” he said. “I put my faith in them and it took off from there.”

That vision proved to be right. Henry has started 86 games over his three years at Jacksonville State, including each game of the past two seasons.

He’s been a steady scoring option for Harper’s team since his first game, holding a career average of 9.5 points per game. More over, he’s been a threat from distance (35.7% career three-point rate) while pitching in on the glass like few others in recent Gamecock history.

Only four other Jacksonville State players since 1992 have averaged 5 or more rebounds per game in three separate seasons, as Henry has done over the past three campaigns. Henry grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds against Jacksonville in early February, and had a 16-rebound game in 2019-20 against Morehead State.

The senior had his brightest moment in JSU’s championship trot when he scored a career-high 24 points in a win over Bellarmine in late January. He also pitched in an important 13 points in a massive win at Liberty on Jan. 29, which snapped the Flames’ then-45-game home winning streak. That allowed JSU to really announce itself as a legitimate championship contender, something Henry and the team would see to the finish.

Throughout it all Henry said he’s stayed close to the British basketball community, which he said means a lot to him. That’s included staying in contact with Davidson senior forward Nelson Boachie-Yiadom, who he grew up playing with, including on the U18 team.

The London native will is now set to play under the sport’s brightest lights as he gets ready for his first NCAA Tournament, and just the program’s second all time.

The London native said that he’s looking to play his role and do his part as he tries to make one more statement in a tremendous college career.

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